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Opportunities in Agriculture 


Farmers Markets 2 

Community Supported 
Agriculture 4 

On-Farm Sales/Tourism 5 

Direct Marketing Meat 
and Animal Products 8 

Season Extension 10 

Value-Added Products 11 

Sales to Restaurants 
and Institutions 12 

Cooperative Marketing/ 
Campaigns 15 

Internet 17 

Renewable Energy 18 

Evaluating New Farm 
Enterprises 18 

Resources 20 

Published by the Sustainable 
Agriculture Network (SAN), 
the national outreach arm 
of the Sustainable Agriculture 
Research and Education 
(SARE) program, with funding 
from the Cooperative State 
Research, Education and 
Extension Service, USDA. 

Also available at: 




Marketing Strategies 
for Farmers and Ranchers 

vA'] A i 

Creative marketing ideas range from extending farmers market sales through the winter (left) to diversifying 
from grain into pumpkins (right). The Bolsters of Deep Root Farm in Oregon's Willamette Valley and the Walters 
in Kansas have both realized new profits. - Market photo by Ted Coonfield; pumpkins by William Rebstock 

80-cow dairy in central Iowa left the farm in a bulk 
truck for processing and sale in the commodity markets. 
These days, however, the farm's milk takes a different 
route to customers. In 2002, the Burkharts decided to 
build a bottling plant and start selling their milk directly 
from the farm. 

Today, the Burkharts' 80-acre rotationally grazed farm 
has become a regular destination for customers through- 
out the Des Moines area, attracting 100 visitors a day 
and up to 400 when they hold a special event. As the 
Burkharts had hoped, visitors leave the farm with gallons 
of fresh, pasteurized milk as well as other products. 

"Business is booming," says Jeff Burkhart, who 
received a grant from the Sustainable Agriculture 
Research and Education (SARE) program in 2004 
to test two marketing strategies: an open house event 
and a Website launch. A year to the day after filling 

their first milk bottle, the Burkharts premiered their 
Picket Fence Creamery with an open house that drew 
more than 900 people for farm tours, children's activities 
and special sales offers. 

The Burkharts have been innovators before. In 1988, 
they divided their 80-acre grass farm into paddocks, 
where they rotationally graze 80 Jersey cows moved 
twice daily to ensure ideal field conditions. Once they 
started the creamery, they began making butter, cheese 
curds, and 25 flavors of ice cream. To include other 
farmers in their venture, they turned the creamery store 
into a local foods marketplace, featuring everything from 
eggs, beef, elk and bison, to maple syrup, baked goods, 
popcorn and wine from 76 other central Iowa families. 

"We're taking the raw product, which is the grass, 
and then adding value to it by feeding it to the cows, 
then taking the milk and bottling it or processing it 
into butter, ice cream and cheese," Burkhart says. 


Jeff and Jill Burkhart 
opened an on-site 
creamery to showcase 
their Iowa dairy 
products, which they 
promote through farm 
days and a new Website 
developed with help 
from SARE. 
-Photo by Jerry DeWitt 

"Our customers really seem to appreciate it - they can 
see and smell and touch everything, they can watch the 
processing through the observation window, and they 
really think that's neat." 

The Burkharts team up with two other farms nearby - 
Prairieland Herbs and Northern Prairie Chevre - to share 
advertising costs and prompt customers to make a day 
of their farm experience. 

Shifting to on-farm sales has been a lot of work, the 
Burkharts say, but the rewards are many. For one, the 
couple now earns a good living. Just as important, the 
new enterprise has fostered family togetherness. "We're 
doing this as a family," Burkhart says. "We get to work 
together, our kids are here, and we don't have to com- 
mute to work. That means a lot." 

Proactive marketing strategies have proven the key 
to success for many agricultural enterprises. Rather than 
accepting the relatively low prices typically offered by 
wholesalers, direct marketers put the power to turn a 
profit back in their own hands by capturing a greater 
share of the consumer dollar. Direct marketing channels 
offer direct connections to customers, providing them 
an opportunity to buy fresh products - grass-fed beef, 
just-picked vegetables, or decorative pumpkins - and 
knowledge about how they've been grown. In return, 
farmers and ranchers learn what their customers like, 
then fill those needs with products, often at a premium. 

This bulletin from the Sustainable Agriculture Network 
describes successful direct marketers, most of whom 
researched their new enterprises with funding from the 
Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) 
program. It includes tips about how to start or improve a 
number of alternative agricultural marketing channels 

and provides links to extra, more in-depth information. 
(Resources, p. 20.) 

Direct marketing strategies are numerous and varied. 
Before beginning to sell direct, identify markets with 
special needs that offer large enough volumes to provide 
profitable returns. Also consider researching and writing 
a business plan, which will help you evaluate alternatives, 
identify new market opportunities, then communicate 
them to potential business partners and commercial 
lenders. (See p. 18 and Resources, p. 20.) 

Organic foods have held steady as one of the fastest- 
growing niche markets for several years. More recently, 
demand for pasture-raised meat and dairy products has 
risen considerably, with a small but significant subset 
interested in ethnic specialty meats, such as Halal and 
kosher-slaughtered products. Buying trends also support 
a rising interest in food grown and produced locally 
or regionally, so savvy farmers and ranchers are distin- 
guishing their products by location and quality. Finally, 
e-commerce has become an established mechanism 
for sales of all kinds. 

Consider selling at farmers markets, opening a CSA 
operation, developing value-added products, offering 
on-farm activities like educational tours, selling via the 
Internet, or marketing to restaurants and schools. You 
can go it alone, or you can team up with others in a 
cooperative. Most farmers use a combination of marketing 
methods - both value-based strategies bringing higher 
returns and volume-based channels selling more products 
- finding that diverse marketing strategies provide stable 
profits and a better quality of life. 

Farmers Markets 

than doubled to about 4,000, reflecting an enormous 
demand for farm-fresh produce. 

Most farmers markets offer a reliable, flexible outlet 
where vendors can sell a wide range of fresh produce, 
plants, honey, value-added products like jams or breads 
and even (depending on local health regulations) meats, 
eggs and cheeses. For beginning direct marketers, 
farmers markets can be a great place to start. To locate 
farmers markets in your area, go to 
farmersmarkets/ or call USDA's Agricultural Marketing 
Service at (202) 720-8042. 

Aaron and Kimberly Bolster have been marketing 
their fruits and vegetables in Oregon's Willamette Valley 
since 1998, gradually expanding Deep Roots Farm 
from three to more than 100 acres. Their diversified 
approach to marketing includes a community supported 

agriculture program, sales to restaurants, local super- 
market chains, and even cannery crops. Yet, farmers 
markets have consistently been among their best outlets. 

In 2006, Deep Roots' employees were selling at 12 
farmers markets a week during the height of the season. 
Several are in Portland, a city known for its vibrant and 
bustling markets that offer everything from heirloom 
vegetables to bouquets of freshly cut flowers, dry beans, 
specialty breads, fruit, nuts, beef, lamb and even rabbit. 

Asked what makes for a successful farmers market 
stand, Aaron Bolster emphasizes "the old cliche that you 
have to have a quality product at a good price. People 
need to have a reason to come back." Customers develop 
loyalty to particular farms based on price, quality, the 
range of offerings, their desire to support local farmers, 
and the personal connection they feel with you and 
your farm. 

Farmers markets vary widely in size, setting and sales 
volume. If you're not satisfied with farmers market options 
in your area, you may be able to improve them by forging 
alliances with other members of your community. 
Merchants' associations, chambers of commerce and 
other civic groups have come to recognize the power 
of farmers markets to draw customers into retail areas. 

Betty King, a University of Kentucky extension 
specialist for community development, calls farmers 
markets "America's first grocery stores." King was part 
of a group eager to emulate the success they saw in 
the city of Lexington, which enjoys a thriving farmers 
market with as many as 60 vendors. In neighboring 
Woodford County, King and other community leaders 
were eager to encourage a new market in the town 
of Versailles. 

When Versailles' downtown underwent renovation, 
developers offered to create a covered space where 
the market could operate year-round. The Woodford 
County Extension Service built a certified community 
processing kitchen, and a SARE grant helped fund a 
training program for farmers interested in developing 
value-added products to diversify their market offerings. 
Downtown merchants show their support for the market 
by purchasing bedding plants and other items from the 
farmers for seasonal decorations. 

The Woodford County Farmers Market now has 10 
to 12 vendors selling produce, honey, meat, cheese and 
freshwater shrimp. "You have to start small and grow the 
market," King says. "Farmers should realize that they 
have to invest, too." For example, paying higher stall 
fees to pay for advertising or a salaried market manager 
can pay dividends later. 

A similar partnership in Santa Rosa County, Fla., 
spearheaded by a SARE community innovation grant, 
led to the establishment of Riverwalk Farmers Market 
in downtown Milton and the creation of a "Santa 
Rosa Fresh" marketing program to highlight produce 
grown within the county. Cooking demonstrations 
with themes like "Cook it Like Your Grandma Did" 
and "It's Too Darn Hot to Cook" drew record crowds. 
Other special events featured antique car shows and 
swing dancing demonstrations. 

The county hopes to erect a permanent covered 
structure for the market on the courthouse square. 
Another plan is to let high school students earn 
community service hours to gain eligibility for state 
college scholarships by working at the market. "It really 
fits with our mission for the farmers market to have an 
educational component," says Chris Wilcox of the Santa 
Rosa Economic Development Council. 

Most growers enjoy interacting with other farmers, and 
many say that cooperation is as important as competition. 
Expect to have slow days when you do not sell all that 
you bring, and be prepared to encounter bargain hunters. 
You may want to investigate gleaning possibilities; many 
food banks and homeless shelters will pick up extras 
directly from your stand or farm. 

If you're interested in selling at farmers markets, keep 
in mind: 
^ Successful markets are located in busy, central 

places and are well-publicized. 

Betty King, a Kentucky 
extension specialist, 
calls farmers markets 
"America's first grocery 
stores/' She opened 
a new market in 
Versailles, Ky., and 
provided training for 
farmers interested 
in diversifying their 
- Photo by Ted Coonfield 

Full Belly Farm in 
northern California has 
cultivated a loyal base 
of members for its 
community operation, 
which provides 80 
different types of 
vegetables and even 
wool. Paul Muller is one 
of four farm partners. 
- Photo by Neil Michel/Axiom 

n ^ Don't deliberately or drastically undersell your fellow 

farmers. The more farmers and farm products at the 

market, the more customers. 
*"*- A good market manager promotes the market and 

enforces its rules. 
r *- Selling at a farmers market may provide contacts 

for other channels, such as special orders or 

^* Get feedback from your customers. You can learn 

a lot about what they find desirable - and what to 

grow next season. 
^ For tips on displaying produce, pricing and other 

practical advice, consult The New Farmers Market. 

(Resources, p. 20) 

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) 

community invest in a local farm operation by paying 
up-front for a share of the harvest, has been growing 
steadily since it first appeared in the U.S. in the late 1980s. 
The community idea carries over into the farm itself, 
with members dividing the weekly harvest as well as the 
risk of crop failure. Moreover, most CSA farms invite 
members to learn more about their operations through 
farm visits, volunteer opportunities and potluck suppers. 

No two CSA farms are alike. Most supply produce. 
They also might provide flowers, berries, nuts, eggs, 
meat, grain or honey. Farmers may ask members to 
come to the farm to pick up their shares, or they might 

deliver them to centrally located distribution sites. Families 
run some CSA farms, while others involve groups of pro- 
ducers to supply additional goods. Many CSA farms ask 
members to commit time and labor to the operation, 
which not only lowers costs, but also allows members to 
learn more about what it really means to grow food. 

In and around Concord, N.H., eight organic vegetable 
growers decided to try a cooperative CSA. With a SARE 
grant, the group worked through the logistics, from the 
creation of a legal entity called Local Harvest CSA to 
weekly food production and delivery. Being part of the 
cooperative makes it possible for the growers to combine 
what they produce best or substitute for others' crop 
losses. Co-op members also learn from each other, sharing 
information about production issues like seed varieties 
and fencing options. Since forming in 2003, the group 
has slowly expanded its roster of farmer-members and 
doubled its number of shareholders to more than 200. 

Another model comes from northern California's 
Full Belly Farm. Run by a team of four farm partners, 
Full Belly hosts a year-round, 800-member CSA with 
drop-off sites throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. 
Full Belly Farm employs 40 workers and grows nearly 
80 different types of vegetables, herbs, fruits and nuts as 
well as flowers, eggs and wool. They also sell at farmers 
markets and to restaurants. 

"I wanted to create a different model than what I grew 
up with," says Paul Muller, who was raised near San Jose 
in a family of dairy farmers and now is one of the Full 

Belly Farm partners. "On our farm, we have great rela- 
tionships with our end users - they are the ones we 
grow for, and they have confidence in our integrity" 
about how Full Belly Farm produces their food. "They 
have no question about feeding it to their kids." 

Full Belly Farm has been organic since the 1980s, 
and hosts an award-winning annual "Hoes Down" festival 
including kids' activities, farm tours, food and music. 
Muller received SARE's Patrick Madden Sustainable 
Farmer Award in 2006. 

Many CSA farmers produce weekly or biweekly 
newsletters describing the harvest and providing 
recipes. Others reach out electronically through listservs 
or Websites. Full Belly Farm's Website describes their 
CSA program in detail - including drop-off locations, 
prices and payment schedules, a harvest calendar 
and a newsletter specifying the contents of the 
weekly CSA box, among other things. 

When evaluating CSA as an option for your farm, 
^ Your location. Can you find enough members? 

Can they drive to your farm; or do you need to 

establish community drop-off sites? 
^ Labor. Do you have enough paid support or 

volunteers to handle the extra jobs involved 

in CSA, such as packaging? 
n ^ Your willingness to sponsor events on the farm, 

publish a newsletter and provide other services 

that help customers feel connected to the farm. 

On-Farm Sales & Agritourism 

On-Farm Sales 

the Burkharts' observation window (see p. 1), they seek 
opportunities to shop at farm stands and interact with 
farmers right where they live. In response, farmers are 
becoming more attuned to ways they might maximize 
their offerings. Some pick-your-own operations, for 
example, have expanded into wedding facilities, farm 
camps and gourmet specialty stores. 

Earnie and Martha Bohner, who started with a pick- 
your-own operation with no buildings, electricity or run- 
ning water in 1983, created a Missouri Ozarks destination 
that now attracts carload after carload of customers, 
especially in June, July and August, when nearby summer 
camps are in session. 

They began with a long-term plan for Persimmon Hill 
Berry Farm based on family goals and values. Within 10 
years of purchasing 80 acres, they were cultivating 3 acres 



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of blueberries, 1 acre of blackberries, 2,000 hardwood logs 
for shiitake mushrooms and 120 apple trees. In addition 
to the products, they provide amenities: clean restrooms, 
a picnic table and shade trees - and tidy field edges. 

"We create a place where people can enjoy them- 
selves," Earnie Bohner says. "People don't come all the 
way out here to get cheap food. They come because 
it's fun and the berries are absolutely fresh. As much 
as we can, we give them contact with 'the farmers.' 
The more we can do that, the more people go away 
with that memory." 

An Indiana grower's use of integrated pest manage- 
ment and shrewd marketing attracted a bevy of new 
customers to his crop farm. In 1992, Brian Churchill 
began using integrated pest management on some of 
Countryside Farm's 100 acres of sweet corn, melons, 
tomatoes and other produce. In 1994, with a SARE 
producer grant, Churchill began scouting for pests, with- 
holding routine spraying and building better habitat for 
beneficial insects. He cut insecticide costs drastically, 
then decided to use that as a marketing hook. 

First, Churchill attracted the attention of local chefs 
with an "expo" (see p. 13). He also opened a thriving 
roadside stand, where the corn is the big seller. 

"We drive the point home about using less chemicals 
all the time," he said. "I have been growing sweet corn 
now for 16 years and the customers keep coming back 
and bringing friends with them. It's been great." 

Once he perfected his system, he expanded into 
watermelons, pumpkins and squash and began inviting 
school children to visit to learn more about farming, 
judicious agri-chemical use and pollination. In 2005, 
1,500 students visited the farm. "Our farm has grown a 
lot since the grant," he says. 

Marlene Groves and 
husband, David, provide 
tours of their 2,000-acre 
Kiowa, Colo., buffalo 
ranch to promote a 
better understanding 
of agriculture, ecology 
and nutrition. 
- Photo courtesy Buffalo Groves 

The Walters' 100 
varieties of pumpkins 
and squash attract 
15,000 visitors every 
fall. The new enterprise 
has brought their 
daughter's family back 
to the Burns, Kan., farm. 
- Photo by William Rebstock 

In the Pacific Northwest, Larry Thompson grows 43 
fruit and vegetable crops on 140 acres in Boring, Ore. 
Once he decided to convert his parents' farm from 
wholesale produce and flung open the farm gate to the 
suburban Portland community, his neighbors began 
coming and haven't stopped. 

Many call Thompson a pro at "relationship" marketing, 
forming bonds with customers who see a value in local 
produce raised with few chemicals. Each year, thousands 
of students - as well as other farmers and researchers - 
visit his farm to learn about his holistic pest manage- 
ment strategies and view his bounty of colorful crops. 


what's unique about your farm and your skills, and use 
those things to create an enjoyable, educational experi- 
ence that will appeal to your customers. The key to 
agritourism is authenticity and creativity. 

Becky Walters planted her first acre of pumpkins on 
her central Kansas farm in 1988 after her boss at a local 
greenhouse gave her seed for a new miniature pumpkin 
that was popular at nurseries and farm markets. 

"My husband caught a big razzing at the co-op," she 
recalls, "but I made $583 selling them, twice what we 
would have made on the 5 acres of milo we usually 
had in that field." 

Like most of their neighbors, Becky and her hus- 
band, Carroll, had been growing milo and soybeans 
and grazing cattle for the commodity market. With 
grain and beef prices hovering at or below the cost of 
production, the couple was eager to find a way to 

breathe new profits into the 1,700-acre farm where 
Carroll had grown up. 

Bit by bit, the Walters expanded that original acre of 
pumpkins to 16 acres. They built a processing kitchen 
so they could create value-added products. Then they 
added a gift shop, a swinging bridge over their creek to 
appeal to kids, a corn maze and educational tours to 
draw customers to their farm, ideally located for a 
tourism venture just minutes off the Kansas Turnpike. 

Today, the Walters grow more than 100 varieties of 
pumpkins, gourds and winter squash - from minis to 
giants - along with tomatoes, peppers and onions. 
Planting many squash varieties also helps the Walters 
spread risk, since different types thrive in different 
weather conditions. Drawn by the variety and convenient 
location, as many as 15,000 visitors flock to Walters' 
Pumpkin Patch in the six weeks leading up to Halloween. 

"People come just to see all the different kinds that 
we have," says Becky Walters, who received a SARE 
farmer/rancher grant to experiment with ways to add 
value to pumpkins by making salsa. The product, 
after experimentation with the recipe and the right 
jar for packing, dovetails with their tourism efforts, 
complements their other vegetables and provides new 
jobs in their community. 

The enterprise has been so successful that her 
daughter and son-in-law have moved back to the farm 
to help out. With their two young grandsons beginning 
to get involved in the business, Becky says, "it feels like 
a real family farm again." 

To expand their educational efforts for school groups, 
the Walters will teach visitors about native frogs and fish 
in their farm pond and incorporate information about 
the Walnut River, which surrounds them on three sides. 

"I think having an idea of doing something and jump- 
ing off the cliff to do it is the hardest part," Walters says. 
"Sometimes it takes what I call 'thinking outside the barn.' 
When you put a pencil to it, it just doesn't make sense 
for us to grow the conventional crops any more." 

The Walters and others who offer educational programs 
for school groups recognize that teaching children usually 
requires special skills and always a good set of ideas. 
To engage children, consider getting them involved in 
projects - whether it's digging potatoes, planting corn, 
or decorating pumpkins. Keeping groups small helps. 
Of course, ensuring safety is paramount, especially on 
farms with heavy equipment and other hazards. If you 
don't have the resources to develop educational programs 
on your own, consider working with local schoolteachers, 
FFA groups, or others in the community. 

Marlene Groves of Buffalo Groves, Inc., in Kiowa, 
Colo., developed youth education programs - including 
an "American Buffalo" Girl Scout patch program and an 
educational youth buffalo project for 4-H - to teach about 
buffalo history. The ranch's "Bison Reader," a youth activity 
sheet, is a favorite at many schools and nature centers. 
Efforts like these, Groves says, foster a better understand- 
ing of ecology, agriculture and nutrition. Mainly, she wants 
kids to know where their food comes from. 

The Groves teach people, young and old, about their 
ranch and their niche product during ranch tours. They 
charge $25 per person, refundable in the form of store 
credit, and also offer customized tours for private events. 

"It takes work to run tours" on a 2,000-acre ranch, 
Groves acknowledges, "but we want to showcase what 
we're doing." They lead visitors on walks, talk about 
grazing management and point out native grasses and 
wildflowers. "Of course, the highlight is going out to 
see the buffalo herd," she says. 

Offering tours is a way of taking advantage of 
consumers' and the media's interest in farm life, Groves 
says. As part of that, "tell a good story - tell your own 
story," she advises. In addition to selling meat on the 
ranch, they also market and deliver directly to customers 
in Denver and Colorado Springs and from their Website. 

Other ranchers have expanded into diverse on-site 
activities, offering hunting, fishing, bird-watching, horse- 
back riding or hiking. In Colorado, co-owners of the 
87,000-acre Chico Basin Ranch began offering working 
ranch vacation packages in 2000. While it's taking time 
to make that side of the business fully profitable, they 
feel they're moving in the right direction, says ranch 
manager Duke Phillips. 

While some people visit just for birding, which brings 
lower returns, "we have packages where people stay for 
a week and we get paid well for that," says Phillips. 
"We have to balance what we do with our values, the 
reason we're here as ranchers." 

Chico Basin was among a group of ranches in Col- 
orado, Wyoming and other western states that benefited 
from a SARE grant exploring various types of community- 
based direct marketing models for ranch owners seek- 
ing to diversify. The key is to put a value on the natural 
resource amenities provided by ranchlands and to find 
ways for urban- and suburban-based consumers to enjoy 
those amenities. 

Community-Based Farm Tourism 

literally, might team up with state or regional agencies 

to promote rural economic development through farm- 
based tourism activities. In many parts of the United 
States - not just traditional vacation destinations like 
Hawaii or New England - tourism can make a significant 
contribution to local economies, and attractive, well- 
managed farm operations can do a lot to draw rural 
tourists. Explore local government, quasi-government 
and business connections to participate in local festivals, 
get listed in state tourism brochures or be featured in 
regional public outreach campaigns. 

In Minnesota, the nonprofit Renewing the Countryside 
organization used a SARE grant to promote local foods- 
based tourism. Working with groups like the Minnesota 
Bed & Breakfast Association and the University of Min- 
nesota Tourism Center, RTC developed a promotional 
campaign called Green Routes. Printed maps and an 
online directory ( guide visitors 
to farmstands, craft shops and other rural destinations. 
"There's a lot of interest in and support for 'green' 
travel, and farmers are a big piece of that," says RTC's 
Jan Joannides. 

Similar efforts are underway in Rhode Island, where 
the Rhode Island Center for Agricultural Promotion 
and Education launched "Rhode Island FarmWays," 
a campaign to highlight farms as tourist destinations. 
The goal, says Center Executive Director Stuart Nunnery, 
is "to help showcase Rhode Island's farms as places of 
significant beauty, culture, ecology and history. Those 
farms are crucial to maintaining Rhode Island's quality 
of life." 

With help from a 2004 SARE grant, Nunnery and 
colleagues have held professional development work- 
shops for farmers, provided grants to help producers 
initiate farm-based tourism activities and created a 

Hidden Meadows Farm 
in West Greenwich, R.I., 
a member of the state 
FarmWays agritourism 
campaign, hosted the 
public during a Thanksgiving 
weekend of on-farm 
activities. The farm sells 
Christmas trees and value- 
added products. 

- Photo by Jo-Anne Pacheco 







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Nutritional tests on 
meat from Buffalo 
Groves in Colorado 
found the cuts were 
significantly lower in 
calories and cholesterol 
than grain-fed bison 
meat, providing a 
marketing angle for 
David and Marlene 
- Photo courtesy of Buffalo Groves 

Website listing farm-based attractions statewide. The 
Rhode Island Center also negotiated a $250,000 loan 
package with the state Economic Development Corp. 
to provide small loans to farmers to develop or expand 
agritourism and direct marketing activities. Finally, 
the team is focusing on streamlining the regulatory 
process by which farmers can set up farm stay or bed 
& breakfast operations. 

"Our farms have a variety of untapped assets that 
can create products and experiences for visitors," 
says Nunnery. "They could be walking trails, historical 
features, wildlife, heritage livestock, horticultural diver- 
sity or just a spectacular landscape. We have farms 
with beautiful grasslands preserved by conservation 
easements. One of the farms we're working with has 
ancient settlements and artifacts being excavated by 
university archaeologists." 

If you're interested in on-farm sales and agritourism, 
consider the following. 

^ Check your local extension office for information 
about how to construct sales stands, small market 
buildings and produce displays. From building 
materials to permits, establishing a stand can 
prove expensive. 
^ Social skills and a scenic, clean, attractive farm 
are crucial for success in agritourism and can 
overcome a location that is less than ideal. 
^ Farm visitors may interfere with main farm 
activities and pose a liability risk. Consult your 
insurance adviser to ensure adequate liability 
r ^ In the tourist business, you are never really off-duty. 

Expect late-night calls and working holidays. 
^ State departments of agriculture often offer 
assistance in setting up farm festivals and similar 
activities. State tourism bureaus also can offer 
a wealth of ideas and information. 

Direct Marketing Meat and Animal Products 

prices fall and wondering how they could stay prof- 
itable, Denise and Bill Brownlee of Wil-Den Family 
Farms in Pennsylvania decided in 2002 to exploit 
what they saw as a market advantage - their outdoor 
production system where hogs farrow and finish on 
pasture without growth stimulants and with minimal 
antibiotic use. 

Given the time commitment involved in direct 
marketing, the Brownlees started by scaling back 
from 170 sows to 60, aiming to sell 900 to 1,000 

animals a year at a premium price. Over the past 
several years they've explored a variety of direct market- 
ing strategies. A SARE grant enabled them to partner 
with a local nonprofit group to test a subscription 
service for meat, in which up to 100 members would 
purchase annual shares of pork chops, sausages, 
bacon and ham. 

What they found was that customers were more 
comfortable with monthly meat subscriptions than 
with annual meat shares. "We tried to pattern it after 
how people are used to buying from vegetable farmers: 
paying upfront," Denise Brownlee says. "For whatever 
reason, they were hesitant to commit." Their experience 
shows that translating marketing strategies from one type 
of product to another can require some tweaking. 

Decades ago, most meat and animal products were 
sold directly to customers, but all that changed with 
the advent of the modern feedlot-to-wholesale system. 
Recently, consumer concerns about nutritional health, 
food safety and animal welfare have spurred renewed 
interest in buying animal products directly from the 
source. Producers, meanwhile, see the value of 
re-connecting to consumers. 

Making the most of your direct marketing efforts 
requires being able to explain to customers why your 
product is better than what they can find in their local 
supermarket. To make specific nutritional claims for 

your product, consider getting samples tested by an 
independent lab. With a SARE producer grant, David 
and Marlene Groves tested their 100-percent grass-fed 
bison meat, which they sell directly from their Colorado 
ranch. They learned that the meat was slightly lower in 
fat and significantly lower in calories and cholesterol 
than the standard published values for bison meat. 

"It's very hard to confidently market your product 
if you don't completely understand it," Groves says. 
"Most buffalo for sale in the supermarket is grain-fed, 
and it's much fattier." Once customers understand the 
difference, they often are more inclined to buy Buffalo 
Groves meat. 

Another expanding market opportunity for sustain- 
able livestock producers centers on health. Health care 
practitioners and individuals seeking to improve their 
diets in response to concerns about chronic disease, 
pain syndromes and various disorders are fueling 
demand for better quality meat. The University of North 
Carolina Program on Integrative Medicine used a SARE 
grant to compile a directory of locally raised, grass-fed 
livestock products after receiving repeated requests for 
such information from holistic health care providers in 
the area. Part of their research included sources of meat 
with desired levels of omega-3 fatty acids. 

For livestock producers facing an increasingly con- 
centrated market with a few large processors controlling 
prices, direct marketing offers the opportunity to retain 
a greater share of product value. Marketing meat and 
animal products, however, means making food safety 
issues paramount. (See box at right.) 

Provide cooking instructions, especially for grass- 
fed meats, which require lower cooking temperatures 
than conventionally produced meat - "low and slow," 
as Texas rancher Peggy Sechrist likes to describe it. 
If possible, provide samples. With a quality product, 
sampling can be the most effective form of marketing. 

Jim Goodman of Wonewoc, Wis., began direct-market- 
ing organic beef not only to increase profits, but also to 
talk with and educate his customers about sustainable 
beef production. After 16 years of selling to packing 
companies, Goodman now delivers beef to restaurants, 
a farmers market and directly to friends and neighbors. 
Customers are getting used to ordering by e-mail in the 
winter, so direct marketing continues during the winter 
through scheduled deliveries. 

"Traditionally, farmers never see their customers," says 
Goodman, who regularly drives 75 miles to Madison to 
deliver beef. "It's nice to be able to hand your customers 
a package of burgers with tips on how to cook it and be 

able to tell them how the animals are raised." 

When he takes a 1,500-pound steer to the packing 
plant, he receives about $1,000. That same animal brings 
$2,500 minus about $450 in processing costs, when he 
sells it directly. 

"People are willing to pay more for direct-marketed 
organic beef," he says. "Once you get regular customers, 
you develop a friendship with them. Then people start 
talking about buying meat from 'my farmer.' It really is 
the way marketing should be done, the farmer delivers a 
quality product, and the consumer is happy to pay them 
a fair price, everyone wins." 

Cooperatives provide another route for direct market- 
ing meat. In 2001, a group of Iowa livestock producers 
launched Wholesome Harvest, a cooperative featuring 
organic meat sales in five Midwest states. Co-op founder 
Wende Elliott, who raises lamb and poultry, got a grant 
from SARE to research the potential - since realized 
with steady sales. "Only by working together can farmers 
protect the added value of organic meat and capture 
premium prices," Elliott says. (See p. 15 for more infor- 
mation on co-ops.) 

Recently, consumer 
concerns about 
nutritional health, 
food safety and 
animal welfare 
have spurred 
renewed interest 
in buying animal 
products directly 
from the source. 


Meat producers address consumer safety concerns through regulatory avenues as well as 
processing and inspection. Before launching a direct meat-selling venture, decide where 
and how you want to market. The type of processing and inspection you choose limits 
where the meat can be sold, dictating whether you can sell across state lines and 
whether direct to consumers or wholesale. 

For more information about meat inspection and overall marketing regulations, 
see the Legal Guide for Direct Farm Marketing, developed in part with a SARE 
grant. To learn more about direct-marketing beef, from slaughtering to promoting 
and advertising, consult How to Direct Market Your Beef, published by SARE's 
Sustainable Agriculture Network. (Resources, p. 20.) 

You may want to develop labels describing how you produce your meat, specifying 
your feeding, medication and other practices and/or where you farm or ranch. Check 
with USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) at, (202) 205-0623 
and the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service's Livestock and Seed Program,, to create accurate, legal claims. 

For organic labels, see USDA's National Organic Program Website - 
- or call (202) 690-0725 with questions. For regulations and information related to food 
safety in livestock products other than meat and eggs, such as milk pasteurization, visit 
the Food & Drug Agency's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at 

To better address the needs of the small business community, including farmers and 
ranchers, FDA assigned its small business representatives (SBRs) to respond to questions 
such as how to find the FDA regulation(s) pertinent to your product. To find the SBR 
nearest you, visit 


To expand sales of their lamb and goat 
meat, Larry Jacoby and Judy Moses built 
new connections with the growing 
populations of Mexican and Somali 
immigrants in western Wisconsin. 
Their efforts - advertising in multiple 
languages, promoting visits to their 
140-acre farm in Downing, Wis., and 
attending customer weddings, among 
them - have resulted in a substantial 
increase in annual sales. 

"We like working with a variety of 
people, it fits our interests intellectually," 
said Judy Moses, who, with husband 
Jacoby, received a SARE farmer/rancher 
grant to explore new ways to promote 
to culturally diverse customers. "Once 
you get into their network, you're in. 
When we have goats for sale, the word 
spreads quickly and customers come." 

Now, they sell almost all of their 
goats and about 40 percent of their lambs 
to ethnic customers at premium prices. 
In busy periods during the Muslim 
month of Ramadan, Christmas and New 
Year's holidays, monthly sales of adult 
goats, kids, and 80-pound lambs surge. 

In 2005, they sold more than 
500 live goats and lambs during 
the holidays at an average of 
$100 each. 

Moses and Jacoby learned a lot 
over the two years of their grant 
project about how to reach new 
customers, many of whom speak 
limited English, come to the farm 
at all hours, and want to slaughter 
their animals according to religious 

Moses' co-worker at her off- 
farm job, a Somali native, sparked 
the project by suggesting that 
local Somalis, many of whom work 
at a Barron, Wis., turkey processing 
plant, craved fresh goat meat. While 
Moses and Jacoby tried ads in ethnic 
magazines, established a multi-lingual 
Website and posted information on 
bulletin boards and tourist information 
centers, word-of-mouth brought the 
most customers. 

A friend who worked at the process- 
ing plant encouraged some of her Somali 
co-workers to visit Moses' and Jacoby's 

Shepherd Song Farm, where they raise 
about 400 goats and 300 lambs annually 
on pasture. 

In keeping with tradition, the Somalis 
wanted Halal slaughtering practices 
involving a Muslim imam. Moses found 
a state-inspected processor 14 miles 
away willing to slaughter goats in the 
preferred manner with the local imam 
present to supervise. Moses and Jacoby 
adapted in other ways, too, growing 
accustomed to unannounced visits from 
families, some of whom liked to pick up 

animals in the midst of the winter 
holidays. Many of those visitors 
bought 10 to 20 goats at one time. 
They even bartered occasionally, 
with Jacoby swapping lamb for a new 
pair of leather boots imported from 
Mexico, among other items. Customer 
relations soared. 

"Mexican and Somali families have 
sought us out," Moses said. "These 
families purchase something more than 
food - a memory of their heritage 
while strengthening family bonds." 

Season Extension 

a CSA or on your farm, lengthening your marketing 
season can be critical to spreading your workload and 
evening out your cash flow. It can also help maintain 
relationships with customers and allow you to offer 
year-round employment to key employees. While some 
farmers enjoy having off-season "down time" to make 
repairs or plan for the coming year, others find that 
practicing seasonal diversification makes for a more 
well-rounded farm enterprise. 

Season extension involves using greenhouses, 
unheated hoop houses, row covers or alternate varieties 
to push fruit and vegetable crops earlier into the spring 
or later into the fall. 

In Oregon, farmers Aaron Bolster of Deep Roots Farm 
and Anthony and Carol Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm 
teamed up with the Oregon Farmers' Market Association 
on a SARE-funded project to test the idea of extending 
a popular Portland farmers market through the winter 

months. Customers got acquainted with the wide array of 
local products available year-round, while farmers gauged 
off-season demand. Deep Roots used hoop houses to 
grow late-season greens and other cold-hardy crops; other 
farmers, like the Boutards, offered value-added products 
based on their summer berries and other specialties. 

"This is an area where there used to be a lot more 
emphasis on winter production, but with more shipping 
and competition from the South, it kind of fell away," Bol- 
ster says. "Now, with the demand for local produce, there's 
a real opportunity for farmers who are willing to take it." 

A key goal for Bolster and the Boutards was to keep 
people employed year-round to foster good workers. 
They also found the winter market was a catalyst for them 
to grow more vegetables year-round, then try shopping 
any extra product to local stores and restaurants. "In 
winter there's certainly more risk, but it's worth it," 
Bolster says. 

Sometimes, the key to capturing a valuable market is 
timing. Having the earliest local sweet corn or tomatoes 

at the farmers market will command a price premium; 
the trick is to keep customers coming to your stand 
through tomato season and beyond. Thinking creatively 
about how to maximize the overlap between peak 
demand and peak production is an important part of 
direct marketing. Becky Walters of Burns, Kan., devel- 
oped her distinctive pumpkin salsa after selecting an 
early-maturing pumpkin variety to coincide with tomato 
and pepper season. 

Another part of season extension has to do with under- 
standing the seasonal preferences of your target market. 
Meat producers often find that customers buy ground 
beef in the summer and roasts in the winter, for example. 
In Colorado, the Groves have learned that they have to 
ship on Thursdays because many people like to receive 
their meat on Friday for special weekend meals. Moreover, 
the Groves say that bison sales are strong around the win- 
ter holidays and into January, apparently because people 
resolve to eat healthier meats around the first of year. 
Finally, raising heritage turkeys for the Thanksgiving mar- 
ket has proven a yearly boon for many poultry producers. 

Value-Added Products 

rented facilities near their farm in southern Missouri. 
Since then, Persimmon Hill Berry Farm has built a pro- 
cessing kitchen to make value-added products, from jams 
to sauces. To create specialty items that would appeal to 
customers, the Bohners did their homework. First, they 
worked with a chef to perfect recipes for jams and barbe- 
cue sauce. Later, with a SARE grant, they sought ways to 

add value to shiitake mushrooms. After market research, 
including detailed cost comparisons, showed that freeze- 
drying on site would be prohibitively expensive, the 
Bohners decided to dry their fresh shiitakes off-site, then 
convert the high-value product into a top-shelf shiitake 
soup mix. 

"The development of new products is something we 
work at all of the time," says Earnie Bohner. "New farm 
products and enterprises help keep us interesting to 
our return guests and give our first-time guests more 
motivation to come and see us." Today, their sales of 
value-added products accounts for 50 percent of the 
farm's gross income. 

Processing fruits and shiitake mushrooms allows 
the Bohners to use "seconds," extend their marketing 
season and diversify their marketing outlets. 

Dan and Jeanne Carver diversified their central 
Oregon ranch by developing a variety of value-added 
products from their sheep flock. With a SARE farmer/ 
rancher grant, Jeanne Carver tested the market, then 
targeted lamb and wool sales toward high-end consumers 
and commercial buyers. Now, they sell Imperial Stock 
Ranch lamb to upscale restaurants in Bend, Ore., wool 
in yarn-and-pattern kits for hand knitters, and ready-to- 
wear woolen and lambskin fashions. 

"Our customers love the quality of our product, the 
flavor profile of the meat, the feel of the wool, and the 
message of the land and sense of place," Carver says. 

Direct-marketing their lamb led to selling some of 
their main product - beef - directly as well. "The market- 
ing project has increased awareness and visibility of 

Greenhouses and high 

tunnels - unheated, 

pipe-framed structures - 

offer options for producing 

before and after the 

traditional season. Easy- 

to-construct tunnels have 

been especially popular 

for off-season fruits and 

vegetables that fetch 

premium prices. 

- Tunnel photo by Mark Davis; 
greenhouse photo by MB Miller. 

left to right 

To add value to local fare, 
the Northeast Organic 
Farming Association of 
Vermont developed pizza 
on-the-go featuring a 
portable oven and diverse 
products, from wheat to 
vegetables to meat. Lisa 
Harris of NOFA-VT 
- Photo by Lindsey Ketchel 

Sheep rancher Jeanne 

Carver developed a line 

of woolen garments such 

as fleece vests featuring 

their Oregon-raised wool, 

adding value to a 

typically low-priced 


- Photo courtesy Imperial 
Stock Ranch 

what we grow, how we grow it and, most importantly, 
how we manage the land," says Dan Carver. "Once the 
chefs [buying Imperial Stock Ranch lamb] tour the 
ranch and see the roots of their product, they ask "How 
do we get your beef?' The demand is there," he notes, 
"but it will grow only as fast as our processing and 
distribution will allow." 

In the Northeast, where festivals proliferate, the 
Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont 
(NOFA-VT) used a SARE grant to research a variety of 
prepared foods for sale at fairs, festivals and farmers 
markets. Their goal was to develop a healthy value- 
added product that featured diverse local ingredients 
purchased directly from farmers and appealed to 
festival-goers. The answer turned out to be pizza. 

To make it work, NOFA-VT needed a portable oven. 
They contracted with a Maine company that specializes 
in wood heating to build them a wood-fired French 
clay, copper-clad oven, with help from a USDA Rural 
Business Enterprise Grant. They then set it on a trailer 
so it could be pulled from event to event by truck. 
In 2006, "Vermont Farmers' Fare" began selling 12-inch 
pizzas made from Vermont-grown wheat, vegetables, 
cheese and meat. 

The pizzas "are a big hit!" says Enid Wonnacott, 
NOFA-VT's executive director. "No one can believe the 
crust is made, partially, from local wheat. One of our 
goals was to get local food on the radar screen of 
people who may not even think about the farms in their 
community and what is available from those farms." 

Wonnacott and others planned the portable pizza 
project to offer farmers a direct market benefit, and 
also to encourage them to sell their own value-added 

products. The oven also cooks bread, pies and even 
roasted vegetables. 

Value-added opportunities are everywhere. Examine 
your product and brainstorm about how processing 
might increase its value. Fruit growers can dry their 
product or make wines, juices, vinegars, spreads, sauces, 
syrups and preserves. Grain growers might create cereals 
and baking mixes. Dairy operators can bottle milk or 
make cheese, while livestock producers might sell 
dried meat or specialty cuts. 

When you add variety to your product line, you 
increase the choices presented to your customers and 
your chances for expanding your sales volume. 

Some things to keep in mind when contemplating 
value-added products: 
r ^ Consider projected costs and returns carefully 

before investing in specialized equipment for 

value-added products. Often it makes sense 

to work with a co-processor to test your market. 
^ Some of the best value-added items make use 

of by-products or seconds. 
" Seek the experts. Consult with your state Extension 

Service, Department of Agriculture or small business 

groups about packaging, processing and recipe 


Sales to Restaurants & Institutions 

lucrative markets. Chefs and restaurant patrons pay 
premium prices for top-quality, distinctive, locally grown 
products - if they are available in quantities that warrant 
inclusion on the menu. Some states and regions have 
created marketing programs to encourage restaurants 
to feature local farm products, and an increasing num- 
ber of restaurants identify farms in their menu item 
descriptions and in other promotions. 

The challenge often lies in getting farmer-chef 
relationships established. In some areas, organized 
sampling events have brought farmers and chefs 
together to talk about seasonal availability, preferred 
crops and varieties, volume, post-harvest handling and 
delivery logistics. 

In the mid-90s, after receiving a SARE farmer grant, 
Brian Churchill held an "expo" for 50 chefs from top 
restaurants in nearby Louisville, Ky. "We showed we can 
produce the volumes they need in as good or better 
a quality as they can get anywhere," Churchill says. 

The SARE grant started Churchill down a path he 
continues to tread more than a decade later. He 
expanded his "IPM sweet corn" to 60 acres and sells 
that and other produce to two chefs, who pick up 
their requests at the farm twice a month. 

Another SARE-funded project in northwestern 
Arkansas organized 1 1 "All-Ozark Meals" at restaurants, 
delis, farmers markets and other locations in 2003. 
Enthusiasm from the event translated to more local 
purchasing by restaurants and groceries and a new 
commitment from a regional environmental group 
to support farmland preservation issues. Several chefs 
who cooked for the All-Ozark Meals now participate 
in a popular competition at the Fayetteville Farmers 
Market, in which chefs have two hours to shop at the 
market and then prepare a three-course meal using 
all-local ingredients. Strong media response has 
confirmed the value of farmers' stories when it 
comes to selling food. 

In Hawaii, a SARE-funded effort known as the "12 
Trees" project is combining new crop development 
with culinary expertise, organic growing techniques 
and agritourism. Farmer and organizer Ken Love 
solicited input from chefs to identify 12 tropical tree 
fruits with commercial potential. Then, project leaders 
and volunteers planted trees on a demonstration site 
where farmers and researchers could learn about 
production methods - and tourists and local residents 
could come to see, taste and buy unusual fruits. Over 
the course of the project, it evolved from a research 
plot to a tourist destination. 

"This came about solely because of community 
involvement," Love says. "So instead of a university test 
plot, we have an attractive public park complete with 
educational displays on sustainable agriculture." 

As the trees come into full production, the Kona 
Pacific Farmers Cooperative will market the fruit to area 
restaurants. Students at the West Hawaii Culinary Arts 
program have been involved in developing recipes for 

the fruits, which include loquat, pomegranate, mysore 
berry, tropical apricot, figs and more. 

"Everyone wins and benefits from this project," Love 
says. "Researchers have a sustainable certified organic 
field for tropical fruit production tests, and chefs and 
student chefs are exposed to a wide variety of fruit that 
they continue to purchase from local growers." 

The 12 Trees site, located near the culinary school, 
was designed for visitors. Self-guided tours with field signs 
highlight information for growers and consumers. Two 
natural amphitheaters provide space for local groups 
to hold on-site workshops on such subjects as pruning and 
grafting. It also draws visitors to the 101-year-old historic 
Kona coffee co-op. 

Other farmers report success from approaching 
local chefs directly. 

"It seems that every type of restaurant has its own 
particular needs," writes Jan Holder in her book, 

top to bottom 

Rare Hawaiian striped 
bananas are among the 
local fruits with a "wow" 
factor grown at the 12 Trees 
demonstration site in Kona 
and are a potentially hot 
crop for area chefs. 
- Photo by Ken Love 

Upscale restaurants like 
Restaurant Nora in 
Washington, D.C., feature 
ingredients procured from 
local farmers as a hook 
to draw customers. 
— Photo by Edwin Remsberg 

left to right 

Philadelphia's nonprofit 
Food Trust created 
linkages between 
Pennsylvania farmers 
and city schools, 
such as farm visits. A 
kindergarten student 
visits Solly Brothers 
farm in Bucks County, 
Pa., with his class. 

Among the sales of 
locally produced food 
brokered by The Food 
Trust: a special 
morning snack for 

- Photos by Bonnie Hallam 

How to Direct Market Your Beef (RESOURCES, p. 20), adding 
that locally owned restaurants are a much better bet 
than franchises. "Restaurateurs usually want fresh, not 
frozen beef. They also want a uniform product. The 
last thing a restaurant manager wants is a customer 
complaining that last time he ordered this steak it was 
a lot bigger, or leaner, or more tender, or whatever." 

Restaurants already working with seasonal, locally 
produced foods might be most willing to work with you, 
Holder says. Providing weekly availability lists can help 
educate chefs and other food service personnel about 
their options. 

Prospective restaurant suppliers should consider: 
r ^ Upscale restaurants and specialty stores pay top 

dollar for quality produce and hard-to-get items. 

According to Eric Gibson's Sell What You Sow!, 

growers can expect a minimum of 10 percent over 

wholesale terminal prices for standard items at 

mainstream restaurants. 
^ Most restaurants buy in limited quantities, and sales 

may not justify the necessary frequent deliveries. 

Growers should line up buyers a year in advance 

and develop secondary outlets. 
^ Call buyers for appointments and bring samples. 
r ^ Meat producers can offer a variety of cuts, and 

even bones for soup stock, but most restaurants 

will want fresh products. 
n ^ Major selling points include daily deliveries, special 

varieties, freshness, personal attention and a 

brochure describing your farm and products. 
^ When planning your crop mix, talk with chefs and 

specialty buyers, who are constantly looking for 

something new. Successful restaurant sales depend 

on meeting the changing needs of your buyers. 

Other farmers and nonprofit organizers are exploring 
the potential of direct farm sales to institutions like 
schools, hospitals, and senior-care facilities. Philadel- 
phia's nonprofit Food Trust received a SARE grant in 
2003 to strengthen farmer access to markets in the 
inner city. Working with farmer groups, extension 
services and institutional buyers, the group brokered 
marketing relationships, matching farmers with buyers, 
bargaining for better prices and coordinating deliveries. 

Among the project's successes was the creation of a 
"Farm Fresh" fruits and vegetable option for people 
participating in a "share food" program run by a state 
nonprofit organization. That program offers discounted 
monthly food packages with a labor commitment. 
About one-quarter of participants now choose fresh 
produce that was not previously available. 

Sales from farms to Philadelphia schools is set to 
top $200,000 in the first two years of the group's farm- 
to-school project, according to Food Trust staffer Patrick 
Gorman. A special kindergarten initiative is supplying 
Pennsylvania farm produce for morning snacks at 1 1 
schools, three days a week. The project has nutritional 
and educational benefits for the children as well as 
economic benefits for the farmers. 

Selling to schools can be challenging - budgets are 
limited, many decision-makers are involved, and many 
schools no longer manage their own kitchens. But as 
public concern over childhood obesity grows, new 
opportunities for school food programs are opening 
in many parts of the country. Privately run schools and 
institutions often have more flexibility than public 


9 * _ 

Cooperative Marketing/Campaigns 

teaming up with others shares skills and abilities, 
moderates the workload and minimizes hassles. 

After Terry and LaRhea Pepper's single buyer reneged 
on a contract to buy their entire crop of organic cotton 
near O'Donnell, Texas, they found themselves with bales 
of raw cotton and no buyer. Scrambling for an alterna- 
tive, the Peppers decided to try converting the raw prod- 
uct into denim. LaRhea Pepper, who had majored in 
fashion merchandising in college, contacted companies 
interested in finished fabrics and secured a new buyer. 

"We realized, then and there, that security and 
profitability depended on our assuming responsibility 
for processing and marketing our cotton," La Rhea Pepper 
says. "We don't rely on anyone else." 

The Peppers joined forces with other organic and 
transitional cotton growers to form the Texas Organic 
Cotton Marketing Cooperative. Through the co-op, they 
shared marketing expenses and risks, then dealt with 
buyers as a team. 

"We were realistic," LaRhea Pepper says. "We realized 
we couldn't deliver a consistent supply as the only 

When the cooperative was formed in 1991, it brought 
together 40 farm families who sought to market their 
organic and transitional cotton. The cotton co-op sells 
raw, baled cotton or an array of processed products 
such as personal hygiene aids and a diversity of fabrics 
through their Website. 

As more members of the co-op were drawn into 
marketing decisions, they also saw the need to create 
new products, expand markets and promote themselves. 
They diversified the product line to include chambray, 
flannel, twill and knits. Lower grade, shorter staple cot- 
ton, not suited to clothing, is used to make blankets and 
throws. Most recently, an "Organic Essentials" division 
was created to manufacture facial pads, cotton balls 
and tampons. The co-op board continues to look for 
other opportunities to add value to their cotton, and 
for partners in the industry who are willing to share 
the cost and risk. 

The benefits of marketing agricultural products with 
others also appealed to Janie Burns of Nampa, Idaho, 
who raises sheep, chickens and assorted vegetables on 
10 acres. A relatively small farmer, she is a large-scale 
promoter of local food systems. With a SARE grant, 
Burns investigated whether a growers' cooperative 
would help area farmers become more efficient and 
profitable, while offering their community access to 

fresh, sustainably grown vegetables. 

"We went to every list of people involved in direct 
marketing," Burns recalls. They surveyed 150 people 
within the Boise/Twin Falls area, which shares a 
similar climate and crops, about their interest and 
capabilities. Then, they identified markets, such as 
restaurants, natural food stores, a cafeteria, a hospital 
and a school. 

The Boise-area farmers agreed to form their own 
co-op under the name Idaho Organics Cooperative, Inc. 
Now, the group has it down to a science. Every Sunday, 
co-op growers send lists of what they will have for deliv- 
ery that week, including quantity, description and price, 
via fax, to their customers. Based on responses, the 
farmers harvest, then pool produce at a central location 
for boxing and delivery. 

In Tennessee, in a similar venture with a value-adding 
twist, farmers who wanted to convert their harvest into 
high-value products formed a marketing cooperative 
called Appalachian Spring. With a SARE grant, Steve 
Hodges and the Jubilee Project investigated the feasibil- 
ity of using a community kitchen in the nearby town of 
Treadway, then co-marketing their products - a variety of 
salsas, fruit spreads and personal care goods. Once they 
crunched the numbers and saw a positive prognosis, 
they began selling the items through the co-op's Website 
as well as through retail locations such as a regional 
airport gift shop. 

The group also sells seasonal gift baskets to area 
church groups, a terrific way to highlight local products. 
"We tried wholesaling at first," Hodges says, "but we 
found that small processors just can't compete against 
big companies, even with a co-op." In addition to joint 
marketing, co-op membership offers other benefits, like 
sharing equipment and bulk ordering supplies. 

Cooperative marketing can be a great opportunity - 
or a headache. Here are some tips on how to make it 
work for you: 

<"*- The USDA Rural Development Business & Coopera- 
tive program offers information and assistance in 
setting up and managing a cooperative marketing 
effort. It's a great place to start (Resources, p. 20). 
r ^ Consider a marketing club, an informal cooperative 
that relies on using member marketing skills. Many 
extension offices offer training programs and assis- 
tance in setting up marketing clubs. 
^ Join a nonprofit farmer network group to share 

ideas and inspiration. 
^ Adequate market research and business planning 
are keys to successful cooperative marketing. 

In Tennessee, 
farmers who 
wanted to convert 
their harvest 
into high-value 
products formed 
a marketing 
cooperative called 
Spring. With a 
SARE grant, 
they opened 
a community 

left to right 

The Mountain Tailgate 
Market Association 
unites a number of 
small farmers markets 
representing 150 small 
farms in western 
North Carolina, 
funding a multi-media 
promotional campaign, 
among other ventures. 
— Photo by Charlie Jackson 

Buy Fresh, Buy Local 
campaigns sponsored 
by Food Routes 
boost sales of local 
products across the 
United States. 

Buy Local Campaigns 

purchases from farmers and ranchers. In 2003, Califor- 
nia vegetable grower MaryAnn Vasconcellos approached 
the Central Coast Resource Conservation & Develop- 
ment Council (RC&D) with the idea of launching a 
campaign informing consumers why and where to buy 
local. Vasconcellos, who had spoken with many area 
growers while conducting workshops for the nonprofit 
Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), 
reported that many were asking how they might better 
market their products. 

To Vasconcellos, the time seemed right to approach 
California consumers with messages about how they 
could convert a growing interest in food to supporting 
local farmers. If consumers were willing to pay for open 
spaces by supporting local producers, why not help 
connect growers and consumers by branding their 
food, fiber and flowers as local? 

With a farmer/rancher grant from SARE, Vasconcellos 
and the Central Coast RC&D designed and launched 
a Website, designed a "buy local" label and created a 
marketing structure that farmers could see working. 
The "Buy Fresh Buy Local" campaign was designed to 
reflect the wide array of products and the diversity 
of their operations, which included u-pick, farm stands 
and markets and such varied goods as alpaca fleeces, 
grass-fed beef and lamb, as well as fruit and vegetables. 

"Buy local" campaigns are underway in many parts 
of the country. Nationally, the FoodRoutes Network 

offers low-cost and customized publicity materials to 
help you or your group start a "buy local" campaign. 

In remote rural areas, farmers banding together have 
strengthened market development. Ten farmers markets 
representing 150 small farms in western North Carolina 
joined forces to form the Mountain Tailgate Market 
Association (MTMA), bringing the power of a group 
behind promotion and performance. The term tailgate 
market, in fact, may be unique to the rural South, 
referring to lots and school yards where farmers drop 
their tailgates to reveal fresh-picked bounty. Since tailgate 
markets lean toward a show-up and set-up style, the 
small venues can be challenging to promote for farmers, 
many of whom have limited resources, as well as their 
small rural communities. 

A SARE grant provided the resources to develop a 
logo for the association, conduct a multi-media promo- 
tional campaign, survey shoppers and vendors at all 
10 markets, and conduct a workshop for the vendors. 
According to project leader Charlie Jackson, a farmer 
who is also on staff of the Appalachian Sustainable 
Agriculture Project, the SARE activities resulted in 
heightened visibility of the markets, brought many 
new customers, provided a strong base of information 
on customer and vendor perceptions of the markets 
and strengthened the cohesiveness of the group. 

Surveys were particularly valuable, considering that 
about 1,600 customers and 60 vendors responded. The 
rapid feedback guided future promotional decisions. 
For example, the surveys indicated that most new 

customers found the markets through word of mouth, 
so the vendors capitalized on that by asking customers 
to bring a friend on a particular market day designated 
as Summer Celebration. That day was the season's high 
point for traffic and sales. 

"It's inspiring to see a group of farmers sitting down 
and planning together," Jackson says. "Group promotion 
is a major benefit of the association." That cooperation 
has led to plans for a 100-vendor market in Asheville, N.C. 


are jumping on board. The convenience of Web shopping 
appeals to today's busy consumers looking for unique 
products. The good news: You don't need to be a 
copywriter or a computer expert to tap into millions 
of potential buyers, although maintaining a successful 
Website can be challenging and time-consuming. 
Website design services have gotten more affordable in 
recent years, so contracting this out may make sense. 

Even if you don't plan to sell your products over the 
Internet or via mail order, hosting a Website describing 
your farm, your location, hours, seasonal availability 
and other information makes good business sense. 
More and more people use the Internet as an all-pur- 
pose research tool in place of phone directories, maps 
and guidebooks. 

A Website is also a terrific place to tell your story, 
a tried-and-true marketing strategy. Have a friend or 



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relative with a knack for photography - or a local art 
student or newspaper photographer - capture images 
of you, your family, key employees, your products, and 
a scenic view of your farm or ranch. Include a short 
"about us" section describing your farm's history, goals 
and values. Remember that reporters and researchers 
rely on the Internet too! Having an accessible, easy-to- 
navigate Website can multiply your promotional oppor- 
tunities later. 

Maryland farmers Robin and Mark Way developed a 
Website as part of a multifaceted "branding" campaign 
for their diversified, pasture-based livestock operation, 
Rumbleway Farm. Along with the Website, Robin Way 
made business cards, brochures, T-shirts, and an atten- 
tion-getting farm sign, all featuring the farm's signature 
yellow chicken outlined in green. Way even created her 
own farm "blog," a software tool that lets you post regular 
entries in a journal-type format to share news, recipes, or 
other ideas. Way asserts the Website and other measures 
have had a huge impact on business. 

Marketing cooperatives can offer a broader range of 
retail products on a single Website, increasing traffic while 
saving on the cost of Website design and maintenance. 
Appalachian Spring Cooperative (see p. 15) tried other 
marketing avenues, but found the Internet among their 
most effective channels. 

Participating in online information gateways can 
result in extra business. Nationally, lists 
close to 10,000 venues where farmers and ranchers sell 
their products. The Maryland Extension Service, with 
help from a SARE grant, expanded an Internet-based 
sheep and goat marketing project begun in the North- 
east to include the mid-Atlantic states. The new Website,, includes producer and 
processor directories as well as other resources such 
as a calendar of relevant religious holidays. 


nk - Appalachian Spring Coop, 

n ^ Buffalo Groves, Inc., 

n ^ Chico Basin Ranch, 

n ^ Full Belly Farm, 

n ^ Persimmon Hill Farm, 

n ^ Rumbleway Farm, 

n ^ Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative, 

^ Walters' Pumpkin Patch, 

^ Wholesome Harvest, 

A SARE-supported 
project in New 
England found 
that farmers 
could grow and 
crush canola 
for both meal 
and biodiesel, 
which brought a 
competitive price. 

The Website "helps me put buyers and sellers in 
contact," says project leader Susan Schoenian, who 
hopes to add nationwide listings. "All of the producers 
I come into contact with credit the site with helping 
them to sell breeding stock and meat animals." 

Many state departments of agriculture now maintain 
online directories of organic farms, pick-your-own farms 
and farm stands. Make sure your farm is included on 
these, and if possible, feature your Web address in your 
listing. Having links to your Website appear on other 
sites will improve your ranking among results returned 
by Internet search engines. 

You can also drive traffic to your Website by 
gathering customers' e-mail addresses and then 
sending weekly or monthly e-mail announcements 
to advertise new products, special events or seasonal 

Now that Internet marketing has proliferated, online 
competition for consumers' attention is fierce. Attracting 
buyers can be difficult when hundreds of other farmers 
offer similar products in catalogs or Websites. To stay in 
the game, you need to maintain a good Website. If it's 
not current, a customer will zip away with a click of 
the mouse. 

If you're interested in investigating the potential 
of mail or Internet marketing, keep in mind: 
^ When it comes to effective design, less can be 
more. Resist the temptation to overload your 
Website with flashing banners and fancy fonts. 
^ Once you have a great Website, you still have to 
attract users. Strive to get a good ranking on search 
engines like Google by driving people to your site 
from online links and e-mail alerts. Good Web 
designers know how to improve your ranking by 
using keywords. Having a distinctive farm name 
can also be a plus. 
^ List your Web address and other information 
in online directories that strive to connect 
farmers and consumers, such as, and Most of 
these sites are eager for new listings and will 
allow to you to create a customized entry free 
of charge. 
^ Update your Website often with your latest 

product information and news about the farm. 
n ^ Make sure the site is secure for credit-card users, 
and provide regular and toll-free numbers for 
customers who prefer to use the phone. 
^ Find reliable and cost-effective shippers who 
will deliver products on time in good condition. 

Renewable Energy 

markets if interest in bio-based fuels continues to grow. 
Ethanol and biodiesel processing plants are increasingly 
common in the Midwest, while smaller-scale projects 
are being tested in the Northeast and other areas. 

A SARE-supported project in Maine and Vermont 
found that farmers could grow and crush canola for 
$293 per ton, yielding 1,180 pounds of meal and 
92 gallons of oil. Including the income from sale of the 
meal, the break-even price of the biodiesel processed 
from the canola oil came out at $3.09/gallon - a 
competitive price for a renewable fuel. 

"Farmers are interested in producing a crop whose 
value is tied to the price of fuel," says project leader 
Peter Sexton. "There's also a great deal of personal 
satisfaction to be gained from producing your own fuel." 

While it's hard to say exactly how the renewable fuels 
market will develop in coming years, with processing 
technologies improving and demand on the rise, fuel- 
crop production offers an array of opportunities for 
creating value-added products. 

Installing photovoltaic panels or wind turbines, 
can reduce energy expenses over the long term and 
provide additional interest for farm visitors. See for more information 
about farm-based renewable energy. 

Evaluating New Farm Enterprises 

retooling an existing one, analyzing all of your possibili- 
ties is crucial to the success of your venture. Consider 
writing a business plan, a road map that specifies your 
priorities, goals and objectives. Moreover, business 
plans provide a framework for reviewing your progress 
and pointing out the need for mid-course corrections. 

If you want to undertake business planning, consider 
using Building a Sustainable Business: A Planning Guide 
for Farmers and Rural Business Owners (Resources, p. 20), 
a 280-page guide to planning, implementation and 
evaluation. The book, co-published by SARE's Sustainable 
Agriculture Network, includes dozens of worksheets 
to help you navigate the process. 

With an existing farm operation, you should be able 
to do a basic enterprise analysis using the records you 
have to keep for tax purposes, says Seth Wilner, a county 
extension agent with the University of New Hampshire. 
"Look at your profitability, then look for anomalies. 
Maybe you thought blueberries were a profit center, say, 
but they're not. So maybe you should shift things around." 


Before Earnie and Martha Bohner, farmers since 
1982, launch value-added products, they analyze 
all the costs and benefits. After starting their 
farm with two acres of blueberries, they added 
other small fruits, then began processing them. 
Today, they cultivate 7 acres in Lampe, Mo., 
and enjoy a comfortable income. Yet, they 
adopted each new enterprise only after asking 
a series of soul-searching questions, such as: 
n ^ Will the product fit in with the farm 

^ Is the product consistent with the farm's 

mission and purpose? 
n ^ Will the product be economically 


In 2004, they explored freeze-drying shiitake 
mushrooms as a new way to add value. Armed 
with a SARE farmer grant, Earnie plunged into 
research. He found an inexpensive dryer, but 
it required a prohibitive amount of energy to 
operate, a cost he needed to justify with a 

lucrative end product. 

When he ran the costs - raw product, packag- 
ing, bags, labels, packing and shipping - he found 
that the freeze-drying was considerably more 
expensive than air-drying, a distinction that 
might be lost on customers. 

Earnie ran the numbers on further processing 
the mushrooms into soup mix, adding still more 
value. Drying the mushrooms off site brought 
down their costs, and they could charge enough 
for a premium soup mix to more than offset 
them. The Bohners debuted the soup mix in 
2006 to an enthusiastic response. 

What's next? More planning as the couple 
attempts to move into wholesale marketing 
of shiitakes. 

"After evaluation in three to four test markets, 
we will be better able to make an economically 
sound decision as to whether we can justify 
building our own freeze-drying facility," 
Earnie says. 

You might consider seeking outside help with a 
specific element of your plan, like marketing. For a 
medium-sized direct marketing farm business, working 
with a marketing consultant will typically cost between 
$1,000 and $3,000. Hiring a consultant is a good idea if 
you're not sure how to get started or if you lack the time 
to go through the process on your own. "It's definitely a 
worthwhile investment if you're in the retail market," 
Wilner says. "It's a lifetime investment." 

Failure to judge the true demand for a product is 
a common cause of failure in many business ventures. 
To improve your odds, be thorough about your market 
research. Good research entails finding out as much 
as possible about your planned products or services. 
Investigate as many marketing options as possible and 
identify several that look promising. The more ways 
and places you have to sell your product, the better 
your chances of success. 

Promotion and customer relations should be part 
of your marketing plan. A common rule of thumb for 
promotional expenses is 3 percent of projected sales. 

In New Hampshire, Wilner helped three farms 
improve their bottom line by working with a marketing 
consultant, partly with a SARE grant aimed at building 
marketing skills for both farmers and county Extension. 

For example, Beaver Pond Farm, a well-established 
farm near Newport, N.H., specializing in pick-your-own 

raspberries, used the consultant's advice to improve 
signage, raise prices on some items and adjust the layout 
of their farm stand to improve product visibility. They 
planted blueberries to diversify their crop mix and 
began selling meat, apples, cheeses and milk from 
other local farms in addition to their own products. 

"People want more one-stop shopping. The customers 
haven't batted an eye on the price hikes," Wilner says. 
"The farm's gone from breaking even or maybe losing a 
little money to having two good seasons." 

Marketing activities are guided by a variety of regula- 
tions at federal, state, county and municipal levels. Some 
vary by type of enterprise and location, while others are 
more general. Legal considerations include the type of 
business ownership (sole proprietorship, partnership, 
etc.), zoning ordinances, small business licenses, build- 
ing codes and permits, weights and measures, federal 
and state business tax issues, sanitation permits and 
inspections, food processors' permits and more. For 
more information, consult the Legal Guide for Direct 
Farm Marketing (Resources, p. 20). 

Adequate insurance coverage is essential. Every 
operator should have liability insurance for products and 
premises, employer's liability, and damage insurance to 
protect against loss to buildings, merchandise and other 
property. Ask your insurance agent about liability and loss 
insurance specifically designed for direct-market farmers. 


Sustainable Agriculture Research 
and Education (SARE) program. 

SARE studies and spreads information 
about sustainable agriculture via a na- 
tionwide grants program and practi- 
cal publications. (301) 504-5230;; 
See the Direct Marketing Resource 
Guide at 

Alternative Farming Systems Infor- 
mation Center (AFSIC). 

Provides on-line information resources, 
referrals and searching on alternative 
marketing topics. (301) 504-6559;; See compre- 
hensive directory, Organic Agricul- 
tural Products: Marketing and Trade 
or request free CD. 

Agricultural Marketing Resource 
Center. Information resources for 
value-added agriculture. 

Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), 
USDA. Information on direct markets, 
funding sources and publications 
about sales to schools/restaurants. 

ATTRA. National information service 
offers 200+ free publications. 
Call (800) 346-9140; Spanish: 
(800) 411-3222; or go to for: 

- Direct Marketing Business 
Management Series 

- Adding Value to Farm Products: 
An Overview 

- Fresh to Processed: Adding Value 
for Specialty Markets 

- Bringing Local Food to Local 

Growing for Market. National 
monthly newsletter for direct market 
farmers. $30/yr. growing4market@; (800) 307-8949; 

North American Farmers' 
Direct Marketing Association, 

Southampton, MA (413) 529-0386 or 
) 884-9270; 


Agritourism and Nature Tourism in 
California by University of California, 

Center for Agribusiness and 
Economic Development. 

Lists publications on running farm- 
stands, promoting "agri-tainment," 

Direct Farm Marketing and Tourism 
Handbook by the University of 

Farmers Market Promotion 
Program. Grants program from USDA's 
Agricultural Marketing Service for 
farmers markets, roadside stands, CSA. 
FMPP/FMPPInfo.htm. Also see Farmers 
Market Consortium Resource Guide, 

Managing the Liability and Risks 
of Farm Direct Marketing and Agri- 
tourism by USDA's Risk Management 
Agency. Resources for understanding 
and analyzing potential liability risks. 

Market Decision Making Toolbox 
for Farmers Markets. Michigan Food 
& Farming System, www.miffsmarket 

Resources for Farmers Markets by 

the Northeast/Midwest Institute. 
Includes market locators and funding 

The New Farmers' Market: 
Farm-Fresh Ideas For Producers, 
Managers & Communities by Eric 
Gibson. Tips for farmers and market 
managers and city planners. $24.95 + 
newfarmer.htm; (301) 374-9696. 

Sharing the Harvest: A Guide to 
Community-Supported Agriculture 

by Elizabeth Henderson with Robyn 
Van En. Lays out the basic tenets of 
CSA for farmers and consumers. 
270 pp; $24.95. (800) 639-4099; 

Tourism & Community Development 
Resources & Applied Research 
Clearinghouse, University of Wiscon- 
sin, Madison, 

CSU Chico Grass-Fed Beef Website. 

Includes research articles reviewing 
the documented health benefits of 
grass-fed beef, information on how to 
create a label for your meat that 
complies with federal regulations, 
recipes and more. 

Farm Fresh: Direct Marketing 
Meats and Milk by Allan Nation. 
Answers to how, how much, when, or 
where to sell grass-fed meat or milk 
for the highest profits. 251 pp; $35.60. 

How to Direct Market Your Beef by 

the Sustainable Agriculture Network. 
Practical tips for selling grass-raised 
beef to direct markets. 96 pp; $14.95.; 
(301) 374-9696. 

Farmers and their Diversified 
Horticultural Marketing Strategies 

by the Center for Sustainable Agricul- 
ture. 48-minute video, $15. 
marketvideo.htm; (802) 656-5459. 

Food Marketing & Processing Food 
Map. A comprehensive clearinghouse 
of marketing and processing informa- 
tion on identifying new markets, lo- 
cating processing equipment, etc. 

Safe Sell Dairy: Creative Ways 
to Sell Dairy Products at Farmer's 
Markets by Courtney Haase. Product 
presentation, sampling and good 
market etiquette. 76 pp.; $8. 

Selling Directly to Restaurants 
and Retailers by UC-SAREP. Tips 
for a successful, entrepreneurial 
relationship with local restaurants, 


Building a Sustainable Business: 
A Guide to Developing a Business 
Plan for Farms and Rural Businesses, 
by the Minnesota Institute for 
Sustainable Agriculture and the 
Sustainable Agriculture Network. A 
guide for agricultural entrepreneurs. 
272 pp; $17 + s/h. 
cations/ business.htm; (301) 374-9696. 

Farming Alternatives: A Guide to 
Evaluating the Feasibility of New 
Farm-Based Enterprises (NRAES-32). 
$8 + $3.75 s/h to Natural Resource, 
Ag & Engineering Service. 
design=413; (607) 255-7654. 

The Legal Guide for Direct Farm 
Marketing by Neil Hamilton. Tips 
about legal issues when direct- 
marketing farm products. $20 + $3 s/h 
to Agricultural Law Center, Drake 
(515) 271-2947. 

New Farm Options University of 
Wisconsin Extension. New niche 
markets and business start-up issues. 

NxLeveL This agricultural entrepre- 
neurs program module offers in-depth 
training and materials for farmers 
seeking marketing opportunities.;; 
(800) 873-9378. 

USDA Rural Business and 
Cooperative Programs. Supports 
cooperatives in areas such as market- 
(202) 720-7558. 

SARE works in partnership with 
Extension and Experiment Stations 
at land grant universities to deliver 
practical information to the agricultural 
community. Contact your local Exten- 
sion office for more information. 

This bulletin was written by Laura Sayre, 
a freelance writer based in Bucks 
County, Pa., for the Sustainable 
Agriculture Network and was funded 
by USDA-CSREES under Cooperative 
Agreement 2004-47001-01829.